Tag Archives: public opinion

It’s the Turnout, Stupid!

Do references to “President” Trump make you wonder how we ended up with a Congress and an Administration so wildly at odds with what survey research tells us the majority of Americans want?

This paragraph from a recent Vox article really says it all:

A general poll doesn’t reflect voters very much anymore. A general poll would have had Donald Trump losing substantially and the Democrats winning the House. About 45 percent of people in general polls don’t vote at all. What you saw in the election was that Republican voters came out at a very high rate. They got high turnout from non-minority people from small towns.

There are multiple reasons people fail to vote. There is, of course, deliberate suppression via “Voter ID” laws , restrictions of early voting periods and purposely inconvenient placement of polling places.

Gerrymandering, as I have pointed out numerous times before, is a major disincentive; why go to the polls when the overwhelming  number of contests aren’t really contested?

And of course, there are the holdover mechanisms from days when transportation and communication technologies were very different–state, rather than national control of everything from registration to the hours the polls are open, voting on a Tuesday, when most of us have to work, rather than on a weekend or a day designated as a national holiday, etc.

The Vox paragraph illustrates the repeated and frustrating phenomenon of widespread public antagonism to proposed legislation that nevertheless passes easily, or support for measures that repeatedly fail. If vote totals equaled poll results–that is, if everyone who responded to an opinion survey voted–our political environment would be dramatically different.

Americans being who we are, we are extremely unlikely to require voting, as they do in Australia. (Those who fail to cast a ballot pay a fine.) We can’t even pass measures to make voting easier. I personally favor “vote by mail” systems like the ones in Oregon and Washington State; thay save taxpayer dollars, deter (already minuscule) voter fraud, and increase turnout. They also give voters time to research ballot issues in order to cast informed votes. (Informed votes! What a thought….)

If the millions of Americans who have been energized (okay, enraged) by Trump’s election want to really turn things around, the single most important thing they can do is register people who have not previously voted, and follow up by doing whatever it takes to get them to cast ballots.

Voter ID laws a problem? Be sure everyone you register has ID. Polls and times inconvenient? Help them vote early or drive them to their polling place.

Gerrymandering a disincentive? First make sure that someone is opposing every incumbent, no matter how lopsided the district, and then help people who haven’t previously voted get to the polls. Those gerrymandered district lines are based upon prior turnout statistics; on how people who voted in that district previously cast their ballots. If even half of those who have been non-voters started going to the polls, a lot of so-called “safe” districts wouldn’t be so safe.

Not voting, it turns out, is a vote for the status quo. There are a lot of Americans who are cynical and dissatisfied with the status quo who don’t realize that the plutocrats and autocrats they criticize are enabled by–and counting on– their continued lack of involvement.

If everyone who has found his or her inner activist would pledge to find and register three to five people who haven’t previously voted, and do what it takes to get them to the polls, it would change America.

Only in Indiana

Over at the Daily Beast, Andrew Sullivan has posted a memo he somehow obtained from a Republican pollster–the same guy who did polling for George W. Bush.   The advice he gives GOP candidates–based upon his reading of recent poll results–is pretty astonishing; he bluntly warns that continuing its anti-gay positions and rhetoric will “marginalize the party for a generation,” because public opinion about gay equality is shifting so quickly.

According to his data, even a majority of Republicans favor basic civil rights protections for gays and lesbians, and the rate of acceptance is accelerating.

Now, I understand that Republicans in states like New York and Massachussetts are more likely to endorse equal treatment for LBGT folks than Republicans–and Democrats–in considerably less progressive Indiana. But even here, most of my own Republican friends react to anti-gay rhetoric with distaste. A not-inconsiderable number of them favor same-sex marriage. My students–Republican and Democrat alike–are almost unanimous in their support, and bewildered by the opposition.

What was that Dylan song? Something about it not taking a weathervane to see where the wind is blowing?

This change in public opinion is hardly a secret; especially since the President’s “evolution” on the issue, it has pretty much been front-page news. So why on earth would John Gregg reiterate not only his opposition to same-sex marriage, but his support for a constitutional amendment banning it?

The Gregg campaign has made several missteps already. Most of them, however, have involved the sort of in-party squabbling that hobbles a candidate organizationally, but not necessarily publicly. This, however, is one of those “unforced errors” that makes savvy political folks wince.

All John Gregg has to do in order to get progressive voters to support him is to not be Mike Pence. How hard is that?

Wrong side of history, wrong side of morality, wrong side of logic.

Rupert must be so pleased.